The Stranger in My Shower

(This story was published in Vol. II of Quotidien Magazine)

Two hours after meeting her, I was attempting to detangle her hair, which had
grown matted while waiting to cross the border.

In fact, there were two of them. Two perfect strangers with dark curly locks sitting
at my dining room table devouring leftover cookies and mandarin oranges at 3:30
in the morning. Not a day earlier, they had left the confines of a U.S. Border and
Protection center to fly with an unknown escort to a city they had never seen, in
a country they had only just stepped foot into, in hopes of another temporary stay
along their journey to live with family, go to school, and secure a safer future. They
were casualties of Central America’s vast and grisly history of gang violence, natural
disasters, and political upheaval.

To read the full story, purchase a digital copy of Quotidien Magazine here.

On Leaving Oak … and On Moving On

The leaving of a place is an odd thing. One day you are a fixture in the room of your place, like a grandfather clock regularly chiming upon the hour. And the next, you are gone, as if replaced by a newer design.

Three weeks ago, we packed up and exited the house we had called home for more than seven years. It was the house that first beckoned to me because of its big windows, its eyes upon the houses, trees, and sidewalk around it, the late morning sunlight casting its rays upon the scuffed up pine wood floors. Built somewhere between 1890 and 1900, the place had its crooked angles, for sure. These were things we grew both to hate and love over the years— the way those two floorboards buckled in the middle of the dining room, the way each stair creaked as you descended them in the hush of the morning, the scuff marks on the walls that left a history of each piece of furniture had been pushed against it too many times.

It may have been the home with crooked angles, but it was the place where all of our children were born, or were brought home. Where the fire was lit on the third floor carpet, and two penitent little ones confessed their crime. Where two long-term guests and a homeless family shared our space for some passage of time. Where a black cat found his afternoon reverie on the warm spot in the South-facing sitting room. Where spills and squabbles and sorted out emotions all took their place.  

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“She turns ninety-three, the first time she forgets to say it back:
‘Happy Birthday.'”

She turns ninety-three
The first time
She forgets
To wish me a “Happy Birthday.”

Fifty-four years
String our shared day together.
Birthday buddies.

Thirty-nine years ago
They called to tell her I was born on 
Her day.
“It’s not my day yet,” she replies,
“It is, when your granddaughter is born
In Australia,”
They explain.

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A Liturgy for Reading Scripture (or Help for the Finite Mind Contemplating the Infinite God)

Dear Shepherd of my conflicted soul,

Guide me this day as I contemplate the truths You have revealed in
Your Word and in 
Your World.

Illuminate to me the truths you would have me dwell upon,
Like a meal laid before me meant not simply to be consumed,
But to be tasted and savored
The flavors remembered and revisited throughout the day.

Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, and lovely,
Cause my mind to rest in these things.

At the same time, O Shield and Defender of my soul,

Protect my mind from reading Your Word through a lens of
Falsehood, shabbiness, evil, impurity, and ugliness.

When I come upon a passage or idea that confuses or confounds my miniscule mind,
Keep me from distortion and lies.

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The Death of Me

I wake in the early hours, a weight pressing me down. I have spent days, weeks wrestling through the questions of the mysteries and goodness of God, and I am weary. So weary. 

Most recently, but not unrelated, I had found myself stuck in the theology of compatibalism: that God is both completely sovereign and man has free will. 

None of these make sense to me in my own brain, and I have been forced to conclude that He is God and I am not. All of these things are true, and God is still good. 

Okay, God, I say. I’m ready to move on from this stupor and stuckness. This aching and groaning. This wondering and fighting. This wilderness and exile. I’m ready to walk in freedom and gladness and light. Ready, set, go!

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Holy Ground at Wal-Mart

I needed to buy steaks for dinner, bananas, and gift bags, so I drove down Washington Street on Friday morning. I planned to go to Meijer where I would find all of those things and enjoy a relatively calming experience. But Wal-Mart appeared first, and I almost kept going, but something made me turn in instead. 

I don’t really like Wal-Mart. The wheels on the carts always get stuck, it feels crammed, and something about it is just depressing. But I pulled in and un-fastened my three-year-old from her car seat. I had little more than a half hour to zip through the aisles with my list. Bananas. Check. Steak. Check. Wine. Check. Birthday gift for my 6-year-old’s friend. Check. A plastic watering can, and then off to find a gift bag for my husband’s 40th birthday gift. 

As soon as my cart entered the gift aisle, I got that feeling. 

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The Clouds We So Much Dread

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, the clouds that you much dread, are big with mercy and will break in blessings on your head

– William Cowper

Almost 20 years ago, I climbed a sooty hill in Lima, Peru. The sky was overcast and my friends and I wanted to stretch our legs, near the end of a long summer of missions work among the poor. We learned later that we had been hiking through a field of abandoned landmines left by rebels. But we were college students and the climb ahead was all we had in our heads. 

These days, the memory is as foggy as that polluted Lima morning, but I remember the dirt clinging to my boots and calves as we ascended the hill. I also recall that after a while, the blanket-like cloud cover thinned and I began to see a sliver of blue. 

And then, in an instant, we walked right through. 

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All is Grace

I turn over in bed, the fingers of darkness pressing me down, only half rousing from a dark and strange dream …

In my dream, someone had died, someone who was supposed to marry another. It was tragic. And then suddenly, somehow the idea gets turned on me, and I am wandering through a weird gift shop wondering if I am still married, and if I’m not, what am I supposed to do with this precious ring on my hand? 

Dreams. The bizarre telling out of all our fears and pains and hopes and desires. It is a kindness to wake up.

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